Worship of Lord Brahma, Part 56
BY: SUN STAFF
Brahmadeva worshipping Sri Subrahmanya during Kreta Yuga
Oct 03, CANADA (SUN) A serial exploration of places of Lord Brahma's worship.
Lord Brahma at Thiruparangundram
Thiruparangundram, a small town in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, is home to one of the Arupadai Veedu of Lord Murugan. Murugan is the son of Lord Shiva. He is more commonly known as Subramanya in South India, and as Kartikkeya in North India. Here in Madurai (Madirai), he is worshipped at the Sri Subramanya Swami Temple in Thiruparangundram (Thiruparankundram, Thiruparamkundram).
Madurai is one of South India’s oldest cities, being more than 2,500 years old. It is situated on the banks of Vaigai River. The second largest city in Tamil Nadu, Madurai is a well known temple town, also being home to the famous Meenakshi Temple.
Subramanya Swami Temple Complex
Thiruparangundram Temple is located eight km. to the south of Madurai. The temple is quite extraordinary, being a 6th century A.D. rock-cut temple perched atop a high hill, some 1,050 ft. above the surrounding area. In fact, the original cave temple here is said to have been a Jain cave, as evidenced by the lotus medallions on the pillars. In 1250 A.D. it was converted to a Hindu Saiva cave by Maravarman Sundara Pandian. Then in 1310, the Muslim general Malikapur destroyed the original cave temple. The main temple is the current oldest structure, having been built in the 8th century during the reign of the Pandya kings. Several smaller temples were later built into niches of the rock face, at various heights on the hill.
Vista behind the hilltop cave temple
The main temple is dedicated to Lord Subramanya, and is one of his six abodes, or battle camps, known as Arupadai Veedu. Here, he married Deivayanai (Devasena), the daughter of Indra, after his famous victory over Surapadman. Subramanya and his consort are said to have worshipped his parents, Lord Parangirinathar and Avudainayaki (Shiva-Parvati) at this shrine.
Abhisheka of Sri Subrahmanya, with butterball garland
Subramanya is the presiding deity here, but he is joined in the sanctum sanctorum by several divine personalities, including Lord Brahma. Subramanya's association with Lord Brahma is quite interesting. Not surprisingly, the son of Shiva is known to have many potencies, one of which is his grasp of the Vedic knowledge. In one famous pastime, Subramanya chastised Lord Brahma for his ignorance on a fine point of the Vedas. Subramanya is therefore known as Brahma-sasta, and he is often depicted in images with Brahmadeva, who is shown offering him worship. The Sage Narada is also said to have received the blessing of Subramanya here.
Subrahmanya Swami teaching his father the Pranava Mantra
In a pastime described in the Shiva Purana, Subramanya (Karttikeya) taught his father the meaning of the mysterious Pranava Mantra, at a place called Swamimalai. Due to these brahminical pursuits, Skanda-Subramanya is better known in South India as a god of wisdom than as a god of war, although he is also famous for the latter.
The Appearance of Subramanya
Subramanya is said to have manifested as the result of fiery sparks that came from the third eye of each of Lord Shiva's faces. Shiva asked Vayu and Agni to take the six sparks to the Ganges, and Ganga Ma later took them to Sarvana tank. There the sparks became six beautiful babies, on six red lotus flowers. Mother Parvati came and hugged them, and they became joined into one form, with six faces and twelve hands. This personality was named Skandan (Subramanya).
There are various references to Subramanya in Sanskrit literature, including Kautilya's Arthashastra, as well as in the works of Patanjali, in Kalidasa's epic poem, Kumarasambhavam, and in the Sanskrit drama Mricchakatika. The Kushanas, who ruled the area now known as Peshawar, and the Yaudheyas, a clan in the Punjab, struck coins bearing the image of Subramanya. He was also worshipped by the Iskhvakus of the Andhra dynasty, and by the Guptas.
Thiruparangundram Temple Complex and Deities
The main temple, which is on the north side of the hill, is comprised of a seven tier gopuram and a large entrance hall with 48 beautifully carved pillars. The temple is approached through a series of 17th and 18th century mandapas, at ascending levels and connected by stone steps. The main entrance mandapa has pillars typical of the Nayaka period, with horse and yali riders and portraits of Nayaka rulers carved in the columns.
Hallway leading to Sanctum Sanctorum
The gopuram rises above the kalyana mandapam, also ornately carved. The sanctum sanctorum is carved from the mother stone. In the sanctum there are five cells enshrining the deities. In the main sanctorum shrine is Subramanya with Durga, Narada and Vinayaka, along with Brahma, Indra, Surya and Chandra. All these deities are carved into the sanctum walls. In two cells facing one other are Vishnu with Sridevi and Bhoodevi on one side, and a lingam on the other side.
A number of the deities depicted here also have their vahanas close by: Vinayaka's rat, Mooshika, Murugan’s peacock, Shiva’s Nandi, and Vishnu’s Garuda. Several of these vahanas are positioned in front of the Dwajasthambam (kodi maram).
Mooshika, Nandi and Peacock vahanas
In the garbha graha is a murti of Ardhanareeswarar (half Shiva, half Parvati). Parvati is also seen dancing with Natarajar. There is a sculpture of Sivathandavam in a dancing posture, his celestial attendant beating a drum and his wife reclining on Nandi, observing. Elsewhere, Nandi is found standing with a group of sages. A small murti of Kali is also found near Natarajar.
Up a flight of six steps is the artha mandapam, which houses murtis of Mahishasura Mardini Durga, Karpaga Vinayagar, Andarabaranar and Uggirar. The latter two are the heads of the Bhutaganas.
There are five theerthams in and around the temple compound, including a well known as Brahma Koopam (also called Saniyasi Kinaru), and tanks known as Saravana Poigai, Lakshmi Theertham (western side), Kasi Sunai and Sathya Koopam. Saravanai Poigai is said to have been created by Subramanya himself.
Water from the Brahma Koopam is used for the abhisheka of Subrahmanya Swamy. While daily poojas are performed here, abhisheka is only performed regularly for the presiding deity. The Saravana Poigai, situated on the left side of the temple, provides water used for the elephant bathes, and for abhisheka of anything other than the deities.
Butter balls adorn Devi
Subramanya's Marriage to Devasena
The marriage of Subramanya to Lord Indra's daughter, Devasena, is a famous pastime. The two daughters of Maha Vishnu, Amrita Valli and Sundara Valli, both wished to marry Subramanya, and performed severe penance in Saravana Poigai. The Lord appeared before them and said that in due course, they would be rewarded with this boon. He told Amrita Valli that she would reincarnate as Indra's daughter, to marry Subramanya.
Sometime later, Subramanya was engaged in vanquishing Surapadman and his army at Thiruchendur, in a battle that lasted for ten days. Although defeated, Surapadman was so puffed up that he would not surrender. Instead, he took the form of a big mango tree. Subramanya threw his spear and split the tree, one part of which transformed into a peacock, and the other into a cock. Subramanya is thus seen with the peacock as his vahana, and the cock as his flag.
After the battle, Subramanya came along with the relieved Devas to Thiruparamkundram. The Lord ordered Vishwakarma to erect an abode for Subramanya, and to create a nicely outfitted town around it. Meanwhile, Amrita Valli, who by now had reincarnated as Indra's daughter Devasena, was delivered to Thiruparamkundram by Indra's celestial elephant, Airaavata, and the marriage was commenced.
Today, devotees throng to the temple to have their weddings conducted by the temple priests, and being wedded here is considered extremely auspicious.
Back side of Madurai Hill - Kasivishwanathar Temple (center), Mosque (top)
Other Hill Shrines
Beside the main Tiruparankundram temple, on the back side of the hill is another cave temple, called as Thenparankundaram. That cave is currently being surveyed by the ASI, and it may be found to have been the original cave temple here.
At the top of the hill there is a shrine dedicated to Kasi Viswanatha (Shiva), and a murti of Nakkeerar, the famed Tamil poet, is standing nearby. Once a year, the presiding deity, Subramanya, is brought here on procession, for abhisheka. Inside the temple there is a murti of Lord Brahma, offering puja to panchalinga.
Near Kasi Vishwanathar temple there are several Jain statues and scriptures erected in the stones. There is also a well known Islamic durgah (shrine) located at the top of the hill, where the grave of an Islamic saint from the 9th century is found.
Temple Compound, bottom of Madurai Hill
Each Friday, local women come to light candles and sit around the temple floor creating kolams or rangoli patterns on the ground using coloured powders, ash and flowers, as an offering to goddess Durga.
Devotees come to Sri Subramanya Swami Temple to enjoy several festivals over the course of the year. There is a monthly Kirutikai festival. The Chariot festival is held in April, Visakam in May, and the Skanda Shashti festival takes place in October, and Karthigai in November-December.
One festival commemorates the wedding of Subramanya and Devasena, while another celebrates Subramanya's victory over Surapadman. The car festival, or Thiru Ther (Therottam), is very popular throughout the region. On that day, Goddess Meenakshi from the nearby Meenakshi Temple and Lord Sundareswarar come out to attend the celestial wedding of Subramanya and Devasena.
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